Fungal plant pathogens have evolved diverse strategies to overcome the multilayered plant defence responses that confront them upon host invasion. Here we show that pathogenicity of the cucumber anthracnose fungus, Colletotrichum lagenarium, and the rice blast fungus, Magnaporthe grisea, requires a gene orthologous to Saccharomyces cerevisiae SSD1, a regulator of cell wall assembly. Screening for C. lagenarium insertional mutants deficient in pathogenicity led to the identification of ClaSSD1. Following targeted gene replacement, appressoria of classd1 mutants retained the potential for penetration but were unable to penetrate into host epidermal cells. Transmission electron microscopy suggested that appressorial penetration by classd1 mutants was restricted by plant cell wall-associated defence responses, which were observed less frequently with the wild-type strain. Interestingly, on non-host onion epidermis classd1 mutants induced papilla formation faster and more abundantly than the wild type. Similarly, colonization of rice leaves by M. grisea was severely reduced after deletion of the orthologous MgSSD1 gene and attempted infection by the mutants was accompanied by the accumulation of reactive oxygen species within the host cell. These results suggest that appropriate assembly of the fungal cell wall as regulated by SSD1 allows these pathogens to establish infection by avoiding the induction of host defence responses.